Containment and Preventive Actions to Prevent the Spread COVID-19 

March, 2020 - Brigard Urrutia

At a press conference held on March 11, 2020, the Minister of Health introduced the new measures ordered by the president of the Republic with a view to preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. This new measure implies preventive self-isolation for 14 days to travelers arriving from China, Italy, France and Spain. Self-isolation is mandatory and must be carried out at the traveler's hotel or home. Likewise, travelers who arrived from the afore-mentioned countries within the last 14 days should be monitored.


Travelers arriving from these countries should show proof of health care coverage by means of a policy or affiliation to the Social Security System. 


If the traveler exhibits symptoms of Coronavirus, s/he must inform the health authorities so that the route of action displayed in the guidelines for the detection and management of cases by health service providers can be initiated, against the eventual introduction of the new coronavirus.


Non-compliance with these sanitary measures may result in criminal investigations that may result in imprisonment for four (4) to eight (8) years; and successive fines for a total value may be up to an equivalent to 10,000 legal minimum daily wages.


This measure is effective today until May 30th, 2020 and may be suspended or extended if needed. 


Additionally, all national or foreign citizens who intend to enter the national territory must carry out the Preventive Control Against the Coronavirus established by Migration Colombia, which consists of an application in which travelers must complete information which allows health authorities to act quickly before any eventuality. Within the information that travelers must provide in addition to responding if they have been in China, South Korea, Germany, Japan, Iran, Italy, Spain, Ecuador or the United States in the last 14 days, they must inform if they have been in contact with people with Coronavirus or if they have symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat and malaise among others.


In the event in which the traveler reports symptoms of Coronavirus, the routes of action established by the Ministry of Health will be deployed to avoid contagion.


On the other hand, according to the Ministry of Work employers, contractors must comply with the following preventive and promotional measures: 


  1. Implement a reporting mechanism including all the contact data of the District, Department or Municipality Health Secretariat; 

  2. Execute all the protocols, procedures and guidelines defined by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection regarding the preparation, response and attention of COVID-19 cases; 

  3. Ensure an appropriate and continuous distribution of all newsletters and official communications issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, the Ministry of Work and the National Institute of Public Health, regarding the guidelines for the preparation, response and attention of COVID-19 cases;

  4. Follow the directions, suggestions and advises provided by the occupational risks insurance companies regarding the promotion and prevention for the preparation, response and attention of COVID-19 cases; 

  5. Supply all personal protection equipment according to the specific recommendations in line with the guidelines defined by the Ministry of Health and Social protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
     
  6. Strengthen cleaning, prevention and self-care measures in the workplace; 

  7. Keep clean workplace surfaces, phones, computers and other work elements and equipment frequently used by employees; 

  8. Request the employees not to share personal protection equipment; and 

  9. Socialize and spread the official information of COVID-19 published in the website of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. 

Employers and contracting parties with employees and contractors coming back from China who do not have respiratory symptoms must follow the following recommendations within 14 days of their arrival in the country:


  1. Use, when possible, the teleworking strategy;

  2. Minimize meetings and promote communication by virtual means that do not involve direct person-to-person interaction;

  3. Report to the Territorial Directorate of Health, the Department of District, Departmental or Municipal Health or to the Health Promoting Entity (EPS) of the employee, if he or she has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing among other symptoms, and address it to medical care;

  4. Recommend employees not using work equipment of other colleagues; and 

  5. If the employee is in customer service, evaluate the possibility of a temporary relocation or reassignment of tasks during the first 14 days after arrival.

Recently, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection together with the Ministry of Work issued containment measures on COVID-19 and preventive measures for diseases related to the first epidemiological peak of respiratory diseases. According to these entities, to minimize the negative effects on health, all private and public entities must: 


  1. Promote within public servants, employees and contractors the appropriate and permanent handwashing and the disinfection of working stations, as one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  2. Provide public servants, employees and contractors through private and public entities and occupational risks insurance companies clear and timely information regarding the preventive and containment measures of COVID-19.

  3. Set communication channels for preventing COVID-19 and appoint the person to which public servants, employees and contractors must notify any suspicion of symptoms or contact with a person diagnosed with the disease. 

  4. Train health and cleaning personnel on COVID-19 prevention. 

  5. Immediately inform the Health Secretariat or the Territorial Direction of Health of the corresponding jurisdiction of any suspected case of COVID-19. 

Temporary and exceptional preventive measures


Considering that cough, fever and breathing difficulty are the main symptoms of COVID-19, the public and private entities must evaluate the adoption of the following temporary measures: 


  1. Authorize the telework for public servants, employees and contractors who (i) have recently arrived from any country with impact in the COVID-19 cases, (ii) have been in contact with diagnosed patients with COVID-19 and (iii) have mild and moderate respiratory symptoms, without that implying an abandonment of their position. Every employer is responsible for adopting the corresponding measures to this effect. Likewise, teleworkers are liable for complying with this measure to ensure compliance with the aforementioned isolation measures. 

  2. Adopt flexible working hours for public servants and employees with the aim of diminishing the risk due to exposure on peak hours or hours with massive flow of people in the transportation system. Having a lower concentration of employees within the workplace and improving air circulation. 

  3. Reduce face-to-face meetings and the concentration of many people in reduced workplaces with low ventilation to mitigate the spread of respiratory diseases and COVID-19 due to close contact. 

  4. Avoid places with crowds in which it may be possible to act with ill people. 

Responsibilities of public servants, employees and contractors: 

  1. In case of having symptoms of respiratory diseases, immediately inform through the communication channels established for this purpose. 

  2. Take care of their own health and colleagues ‘health keeping clean the workplace and an appropriate distance. 

  3. Constantly handwashing with water and soap, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. 

  4. Temporarily avoid physical contact. 

  5. Cover their mouth when coughing and immediately dispose of the tissue in the trash. If there is no tissue, cough covering the mouth with the highest part of the elbow. Keep a distance of at least 1 meter. 

  6. Attend training and follow preventive measures for COVID-19 implemented by the corresponding public or private entity and the occupational risks insurance company. The non-compliance with these obligations is considered a violation of the safety and health at the workplace rules. 

Additionally, the occupational risks insurance companies are obliged to provide clear and timely information regarding the preventive measures of COVID-19 and must create a preventive and control team of COVID-19. 


 



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